Gas rep says campus unofficially agrees to drill

Provost Nowell Donovan says the university is still in “limbo-land” over whether to allow drilling for natural gas on its property, but a landman representing Four Sevens Resource Co. told members of the Bluebonnet Place Neighborhood Association this week that Four Sevens and TCU have unofficially agreed on a contract.Four Sevens agent Rogers Gideon told members Tuesday night an agreement with TCU was “in the hands of the attorneys.” Donovan said Wednesday afternoon TCU is actively considering the prospect of drilling on its property and has been approached by several resource companies with prospective leases.

“I think the money’s been solved, (and) I think a lot of the plans have been solved,” Gideon said. “(But) we don’t have it inked and in the bank.”

Donovan wouldn’t confirm discussions are taking place with Four Sevens.

“What I can say is that, basically, we are simply assessing it,” Donovan said. “We are in limbo-land because we’re in the process of making a decision as to whether or not to drill.”

Fort Worth’s urban landscape sits directly atop the coveted Barnett Shale, and, because oil and gas ordinances limit drilling in urban areas, a suitable several-acre drill site is extremely valuable. Donovan said that although the university knows of places it will not allow drilling, he didn’t give specifics of possible sites.

Energy companies equipped with the technology to commercially exploit the Barnett Shale, one of the largest natural gas reservoirs in the United States, are competing to acquire leases for the mineral rights of Fort Worth land.

Energy companies looking to tap into TCU’s land and the surrounding neighborhoods have sought after drill sites in the industrial zone near Granbury Road behind the Bluebonnet Hills neighborhood. They are also competing for land by Colonial Country Club and several areas on TCU’s campus.

Donovan said he anticipated the decision would be made “sooner rather than later,” and will hinge on safety, financial and environmental concerns, and authorization from the board of trustees.

Because Fort Worth’s private homeowners are without a board of trustees to endorse their decisions, many have turned to neighborhood associations for direction.

Bluebonnet Hills and Bluebonnet Place neighborhoods, each slightly south of campus, have held meetings within the past two weeks allowing representatives from Four Sevens Resource Co. to explain their lease and answer questions from concerned residents.

Elliott Carman, chairman of the Bluebonnet Place Neighborhood Association, said he wanted his fellow residents to learn about the lease so they could make an “informed, educated decision.”

“Personally I don’t like to sign something unless I truly understand what it is,” Carman said.

The Bluebonnet Hills neighborhood association took neighborhood solidarity even further by negotiating bonus payments from Four Sevens for signing up its own residents.

Ryan Shackelford, a member of the Bluebonnet Hills Neighborhood Association executive committee, said Four Sevens agreed to pay the association $50 per lease for the first 100 signatures, $75 dollars per lease for the next 100 signatures and $100 per lease beyond 200 signatures.

Although some of his neighbors are still waiting, Stephen Barker, a resident of Bluebonnet Hills, has signed a lease with Four Sevens that will pay him an initial $500 bonus and provide monthly royalty checks of 25 percent as long as the well is producing.

Geology professor John Breyer, also a homeowner in a neighborhood near TCU, chose to sign a lease with Chesapeake Energy Corporation, which offered him a signing bonus of $35,000 and pays 35 percent royalties.

The leasing process, said Bill Cunningham, a Four Sevens Partner, will probably take six months to one year.